As of today, one of the Bay Area’s top Italian restaurants has expanded to the heart of Silicon Valley. Since opening in 2018, Divisidero Street’s Che Fico has become one of San Francisco’s most well-known restaurants. It’s drawing attention not only for chef David Nayfeld’s menu of seasonal Italian food influenced by the traditions of the Jewish-Roman Cucina Ebraica, but also for the restaurant’s stunning interior, thoughtful wine list, and commitment to its employees. And yet, despite all of Che Fico’s success, Nayfeld says he’s not looking to make a carbon copy of the restaurant.
Instead, with the opening of the restaurant’s second outpost at the Springline development in Menlo Park, Nayfeld and partner Matt Brewer say they’re bringing the spirit of Che Fico to the Silicon Valley suburb — with new tricks tailored to the Menlo Park clientele. “We really wanted to bring the big energy of Che Fico down here,” Nayfeld says. “But don't think of this as, like, Carbone — this is a completely different restaurant.”
Aside from a few fan-favorite items including Che Fico’s pineapple and Calabrian chile-topped pizza and chopped salad, the Che Fico Parco Menlo menu should feel fresh. At its heart, there’s a lineup of about a half dozen fresh pastas including a classic spaghetti pomodoro, pillowy gnocchi with black truffles, and hand-formed garganelli paired with chubby Italian butter beans — the “unsung hero of the Indian summer of San Francisco,” Nayfeld says — and pancetta.
Nayfeld expects the mozzarella caviale will become a menu standout. As at the original restaurant, it’ll be hand-pulled to order, but unlike at the San Francisco location, it’ll be stuffed with California black sturgeon caviar. He’s also excited about the vongole en costa, a dish from the Amalfi coast similar to a clam-filled calzone. Larger plates include a fire-roasted whole chicken, a $182 32-ounce bone-in wagyu ribeye, and a wood-fire roasted whole branzino. For a sweet ending, the kitchen will be spinning out soft-serve gelato, which can be wrapped up into ice cream sandwiches.
Wine Director Jason Alexander pulled together a list that pays homage to the diversity of Italian wines. Italian-made selections comprise the majority of the 400-bottle list, the exceptions being a single bottle of Champagne and a few California producers that use Italian varietals. There’s also a list of “Italian-inspired craft cocktails, local and Italian beers, as well as non-alcoholic options,” per a press release.
Jon de la Cruz of DLC ID, who also designed the San Francisco restaurant, worked with the owners to create a richly textured space that feels similar to the sister location. In the main dining room, look for features like warm wood-paneled walls, plush red leather booths, and eye-catching Murano blown-glass chandeliers. The floors showcase terrazzo marble and cut tile in a stylish chevron pattern. On the horseshoe-shaped bar, which Nayfeld describes as a “jewel box,” hanging brass-and-glass shelving will house the restaurant’s collection of amari and aperitivo. The restaurant also boasts an expansive covered patio, which can seat up to 70 diners, plus multiple private dining spaces where the team hopes to host events. Nayfeld says there are some small touches that call back to design elements of the San Francisco restaurant, subtle elements meant for diners to discover on their own. “When you're going out what are you trying to do?” Nayfeld says. “You’re trying to inspire delight, so we’re constantly trying to find these moments.”
For now, Che Fico Parco Menlo will serve dinner only — though the team plans to expand to offering lunch and brunch down the line. The menu will also likely evolve, Nayfeld says, as the team settles into the new neighborhood and starts to learn what Peninsula diners want to see on the list. “These two restaurants, they are like A Tale of Two Cities,” he says, “and we are excited by both of them equally.”